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Times begins charges for online readers

 10:27 am on Jul 2, 2010 (gmt 0)

The Times newspaper has begun charging readers to access its online content.

From now on, access to the Times and Sunday Times website will cost £1 per day, or £2 a week if readers sign up to a subscription.





 10:29 am on Jul 2, 2010 (gmt 0)

Should be interesting to watch.

Personally, while the BBC news site remains free, I will not be paying for access to any newspapers.


 2:06 pm on Jul 2, 2010 (gmt 0)

I don`t read any news or watch any news, so doesn`t really matter to me.



 3:40 pm on Jul 2, 2010 (gmt 0)

Insightful piece by Rory.
The wall goes up [bbc.co.uk]
So the great experiment which could determine the future of the news industry has begun. Head over to the Times website today and, at first glance, nothing has changed. You can see the front page, with the headline "Husband of 'femme fatale spy' speaks out". But click on the story and you're presented with a page inviting you to pay up.
My suspicion is that the main problem with this experiment is what I'd call friction. Web users have got used to clicking simply from one page to another without hindrance. Any element of friction - the aggravation of having to pay or just log in - acts as an incentive to head elsewhere in a hurry. I tried an experiment this morning, posting a link on Twitter to an article by the very funny Times columnist Caitlin Moran. Plenty of people clicked on the link - but when they were taken directly to the Times pay-station, they all appear to have left without paying.

I guess they will have to give it a few weeks to know if it's starting to work.


 3:47 pm on Jul 2, 2010 (gmt 0)

I should think only a small minority of actual Times readers need subscribe for them to call it a victory, and a viable business model.

News delivery via the net is so much cheaper than in print.


 4:57 pm on Jul 2, 2010 (gmt 0)

I just visited their site and am able to click on whatever I want. I'm not seeing a paywall.


 5:09 pm on Jul 2, 2010 (gmt 0)

ponyboy96, is that thetimes.co.uk?


 5:24 pm on Jul 2, 2010 (gmt 0)

this can help other websites, which will remain free to access.


 5:27 pm on Jul 2, 2010 (gmt 0)

ponyboy96, is that thetimes.co.uk?

nytimes.com...yeah, wrong site. I'm seeing the pay wall now. Sometimes if you change your user-agent to googlebot or the like, you can get around these. But not in this case. I guess they don't value SE traffic.


 5:42 pm on Jul 2, 2010 (gmt 0)

You would think they would limit the pay model to articles/content that was unique, but most the "news" on their homepage is the same news you can get at 100 other news homepages for free.

I would not pay to read about the Netherlands/Brazil game with I can read it for free any where else.

Not optimistic about their approach. ESPN.com has a decent model, they offer paid subscriptions to unique commentary and analysis you will have trouble finding elsewhere. I don't pay for it, but I can see some die-hards paying for it.

But if ESPN were to charge me to view every article, I'd go to CBSSports.com. If CBS starts charging, I go to FoxSports.com. If they start charging, I go to ABCSports.com, etc.

You get the point. You can't charge for content that is freely available almost anywhere else.


 6:34 pm on Jul 2, 2010 (gmt 0)

I don`t read any news or watch any news, so doesn`t really matter to me.

I have to wonder the purpose of this type of message. Isn't it like going in a Facebook news thread to tell everyone you don't use it and don't care about their new controversial feature?


 6:47 pm on Jul 2, 2010 (gmt 0)

i agree with maxi, i really won't pay a buck for general news content because substitutes are published everywhere for free.

I know that in some countries, they introduced another revenue sharing model back in 1997, aggregates contents from more than thousands of contracted magazines and newspapers every day, and sell this database to people in relevant industries. As far as i remember, the subscription was more than US$500-800 a month for a few simultaneous login access. All newspapers, government depts, listed companies, financial institution , PR companies need this stuff. Is there similar aggregation service in other countries?


 7:03 pm on Jul 2, 2010 (gmt 0)

Interestingly, all great internet poster companies are almost of no relations to any traditional media giants who once had absolute advantage on grabbing public attention.

Myspace was acquired, not built by News Corp. ICQ was tellingly killed by AOL. And today they still talk about this very nostalgic topic - charge for readers. This sucks.

Last year i worked with a media company who, again, spent half million on building a travel-related website. The result is: Joomla + a few extensions + contents + ads. To make it interactive, they had phpBB...........


 7:03 pm on Jul 2, 2010 (gmt 0)

When traveling, I gladly pay a buck for a USAToday or whatever newspaper I want to grab - to have in my hand, read in a restaurant, etc.

To read it online - no way. They should be making more than enough on ads.


 7:18 pm on Jul 2, 2010 (gmt 0)

I have to agree that I can't see this model working. What I pay for a physical "hard copy" subscription is the cost of the printing, paper, delivery, infrastructure, etc. The cost of delivering the news digitally should be more than covered by advertising. Traditional news outlets still haven't grasped the new distribution model. In the old days (you know, the 1990's) you could usually get your in-depth news from one of a couple or a few regional papers and that's it. In a given region there was only a little competition. Now news outlets are not just in competition with the other regional papers but with EVERY other news outlet that exists on the web. The fact that the vast majority of general news outlets are going to disappear is inevitable. There is simply too much repetition. We don't need 200 newspapers all reprinting the same AP piece. News outlets can deny it and hide from it but it's coming. To survive outlets will need to become either niche specialists, local specialists, or have content that is simply untouchable a la Woodward and Bernstein on Watergate.


 7:34 pm on Jul 2, 2010 (gmt 0)

The real problem for the Times business model is the BBC. The BBC provide reasonably impartial and well researched news for free. This is the competitor which will kill the Times business model.

I believe the BBC's provision of information on the internet is a distortion of the market. They are funded by the UK tax payer and we thought their remit was to provide TV and radio not a completely free internet service to the UK and a large part of the world.

Their coverage on the internet of DIY, financial, gardening, cooking, sports and loads of other every day stuff is seriously putting other people out of business. And the reason is simple, the BBC is funded entirely by the UK tax payer.

As long as the BBC is providing a free internet news service at my expense, what other non-niche organisation can operate profitably? I strongly object to their misuse of my money.


 7:36 pm on Jul 2, 2010 (gmt 0)

As a British person living abroad the Times used to be my go to online newspaper and when I'm home the paper I'm most likely to buy physically. Last month I had access to the free preview of the new site however despite my loyalty to the brand, I certainly wont be paying to read it online from now on for the reasons that people have mentioned above, just too much free competition. However I can recognize that the Times do have great columnists that have built up strong reader bases that may induce people to pay.

The News Corp dont care about SE traffic, I remember sometime last year Murdoch threatening to take all of his sites out of google due because he didn't like them appearing on google news. I can't remember whether or not they actual went through with this.

I'm interested to know how long this likely doomed venture lasts and whether the income from the few that elect to pay comes close to the income that they were previously getting from advertising on the free-for-all site.


 9:39 pm on Jul 2, 2010 (gmt 0)

The BBC provide reasonably impartial and well researched news for free.

That's the second time someone in this thread has mentioned that BBC content is free, and it's not the case.

They are funded by the UK tax payer.

Not quite but close enough. The BBC is funded by the UK TV-owner. In the UK you can consume BBC media from both a radio and an internet-connected PC and you won't pay the BBC a penny.

Nevertheless, BBC content is decidedly not free. Someone is paying for it. Even if it isn't you.

Back to The Times... A number of UK news journals (The Financial Times, The Economist) have introduced pay-for content in the last couple of years with a relative degree of success. The point though, surely, as one or two posters on this thread have already pointed out, is that this pay-for content cannot be found elsewhere.

I too am sceptical that attempting to charge the public for reading re-written newswire reports will last long before the public gets wise to the fact that the newswire reports are themselves publicly accessible at no cost.


 9:57 pm on Jul 2, 2010 (gmt 0)

Sometimes if you change your user-agent to googlebot or the like, you can get around these. But not in this case. I guess they don't value SE traffic.

these days i should think the times can manage a more sophisticated system than just checking for an easily fakeable user agent :)


 10:53 pm on Jul 2, 2010 (gmt 0)

The BBC provide reasonably impartial and well researched news for free.

The BBC could not be considered impartial nor free in all honesty.

THE BBC is institutionally biased, an official report will conclude this week. The year-long investigation, commissioned by the BBC, has found the corporation particularly partial in its treatment of single-issue politics such as climate change, poverty, race and religion.


 11:18 pm on Jul 2, 2010 (gmt 0)

the BBC also runs ads outside the UK...often very animated flash ones. They know they're in a privileged position which is why they decided couple of months ago to actually get rid of sections of their site and also to throw other news sites some spare change by increasing links to them. Regular users of bbc online will have noticed in-article links for the first time this year, often going to other media sources. They're worried the new government will be harsher on them than blair/brown were.


 12:07 am on Jul 3, 2010 (gmt 0)

The BBC may not be perfectly unbiased, but compared to newspapers they are paragons of virtue.

The main problem Murdoch has got is someone in his organisation is clearly an idiot (maybe Murdoch himself). The price is pitched way too high too soon. I would think something closer to 50p per week would be nearer the mark if it is to have any hope of success. If users accepted that, the price could be raised gradually.



 2:54 am on Jul 3, 2010 (gmt 0)

Unless the top sites go behind the wall and offer a joint subscription this is doomed to fail.


 3:07 am on Jul 3, 2010 (gmt 0)

I have some links to the Times and just checked them out -- they all work just fine. It appears that they are leaving their archives unprotected, for now at least. In fact, Google shows almost 3 million articles indexed on timesonline.co.uk.

Maybe they'll leave those articles online permanently, to bring in a few potential customers and to ensure they don't completely disappear from the known Internet.


 4:01 am on Jul 3, 2010 (gmt 0)

Google isn't going to allow indexing of millions of pages that all lead to a "You want to read this, pay up" offer.

If they leave archives unprotected and articles become free for everyone after a period of time they will all become duplicate as others post the stories and get indexed long before they do.

If going paid is the game then noindex and a good legal team is a must, I just don't see enough people paying to support the top heavy company when free alternatives are truly everywhere. When the times starts to try to assess blame later on I'm sure they'll aim it Google's way, can I buy front row tickets for the fight?


 5:45 am on Jul 3, 2010 (gmt 0)

A number of UK news journals (The Financial Times, The Economist) have introduced pay-for content in the last couple of years with a relative degree of success.

I've been saying this for a long time. It's not that people won't pay for content. It's that they won't pay for crap content.

I subscribe to the Economist (print version), and have access to the website content as well. The reason I pay to get their magazine is because I see value in their work.

On the other hand, I tried Newsweek. After my initial one-year subscription of $10 (or some silly figure like that), I didn't renew simply because their content is completely worthless to me. What's funny is that I've been getting Newsweek in the mail for the past two years, despite the fact that I never renewed my subscription. They themselves know it's worthless, and all I am to them is another subscriber they can claim so they can sell advertisement.



 7:52 am on Jul 3, 2010 (gmt 0)

I think Times' business model will fail, simply because one pound per day is too much. For that you get access to all the online content, not just the story clicked. But the reader may not want that. The solution is micro-payments. Front page free, each story clicked costs a totally negligable amount - 1 or 2 pennies. Found myself across a dinner table from the editor of a major newspaper some time ago. This topic was disussed at length and it became clear that only micro-payments can solve the problem. Technology is not quite there yet, but Google is said to be working on it.


 2:17 pm on Jul 4, 2010 (gmt 0)

It's ridiculous to say that the BBC should be cut down because it harms business. Regardless of how the BBC is funded, if it's doing a good job then it should be valued by the nation. To shut some or all of it down and divert the money to private companies (who will take a much bigger chunk of that money as profit and therefore offer less in return) is folly.

As for micropayments, I still can't see that mechanism being popular with payment processing companies. I think the minimum charge per page would have to be more than one or two pennies, otherwise the processing companies will complain that there's no room for them to make a profit. Plus, the problem will remain: news really isn't that valuable from the mouth of a single journalist, so you'll always be able to hear the same sort of thing from someone else for free. Even blogging harms Murdoch's old empire of protected publishing, and that's not going to go away.


 4:04 pm on Jul 4, 2010 (gmt 0)

Micro fees (payments) have worked well in the phone industry for years.

Why can't they be made to work for online content?


 10:57 pm on Jul 4, 2010 (gmt 0)

On the other hand, I tried Newsweek. After my initial one-year subscription of $10 (or some silly figure like that), I didn't renew simply because their content is completely worthless to me.

Interesting, coming from a reader of "The Economist". "Newsweek" in the past two years has evolved, in type of content, to be almost identical to what traditionally "The Economist" has been -- excellent commentary, albeit at a basement bargain price.

And if "Newsweek" may be had, weekly at your door, at that bargain price, who needs "The Times" for editorials? Most else is freely available on the net.

For their sake, I hope they know something more than I do!


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